This page covers the sequoia groves near the main entrance to Kings Canyon National Park, including Grant Grove, Redwood Mountain, and the Giant Sequoia National Monument.
Heavily-developed Grant Grove has campgrounds, an extensive trail network, a lodge, convenience store, and restaurant, and the privately-owned mountain cabins of Wilsonia, all in a 2.5-mile-wide block of Kings Canyon National Park. The best scenery in the area is on the Grant Grove Trail, a half-mile paved loop that passes by perhaps a dozen giant trees. Outside this short trail, the rest of the grove isn't nearly as impressive. Most nearby trails pass through rather mundane pine forest, although east of Highway 180 the landscape rises toward a ridge with lusher woodland and some nice views. Some trails east of Highway 180 are little-used and are heavily overgrown or have disappeared completely.
Sharply contrasting with Grant Grove is the minimally-developed Redwood Mountain Grove. The world's largest sequoia grove, Redwood Mountain has a backwoods feel; its trails are ideal for day hikers who want to avoid the more touristy parts of the park.
Immediately north and south of Sequoia National Park is the Sequoia National Forest, which contains about half of the world's sequoias. Unfortunately, national forests are essentially government-managed timberlands, so most of the sequoia groves in this area have been logged. Perhaps the most controversial logging occured in the 1980s, when numerous stands of the old-growth pines, firs, and cedars that grow within the sequoia groves — in fact, the majority of trees within the groves — were clearcut. In 2000, part of Sequoia National Forest was designated the Giant Sequoia National Monument to better protect the sequoia groves, but the monument is still part of the National Forest and smaller trees can still be logged as part of the forest service's fire suppression practices.
The National Forest has an extensive road network sprinkled with numerous campgrounds and privately-run retreats, including the Sequoia High Sierra Camp, which may be the nicest place to stay in the Sequoia and Kings Canyon area. By and large, though, the National Forest facilities don't look as nice to me as the national parks'. In hunting season (fall) the rolling hills echo with the nearly continuous sound of gunfire.
*** Redwood Mountain (10.0 miles, 2200 feet)
Redwood Mountain is one of the largest remaining old-growth groves. Although it's not quite as scenic as the Giant Forest, it has more of a wilderness feel and no crowds.
*** Grant Grove (0.4 miles, 50 feet)
This short paved loop is easy to get to and has quite a few big trees, most notably the General Grant, currently the world's second-largest tree.
*** Evans Grove (3.8 miles, 980 feet)
Sequoia National Monument's Evans Grove contains a small but superb area of old growth. It's reached by a 1-mile hike over open hills.
* North Grove (1.9 miles, 390 feet)
The North Grove Loop is a dusty dirt road just downhill from the main Grant Grove loop trail. There are a few big sequoias but it's not nearly as impressive as the main loop.
* Bearskin Grove (1.7 miles, 240 feet)
This small grove in the Giant Sequoia National Monument was the first to be affected when the Forest Service began logging sequoia groves in the 1980s. Although its other trees were clearcut, the sequoias were not cut and some large sequoias remain. Two old logging roads run through the grove.
* Lockwood Grove (1.2 miles, 140 feet)
This grove near Hume Lake in the Sequoia National Monument is reached by a long, bumpy drive up a poorly-maintained dirt road. The grove is something of a letdown since only a few sequoias stand by the side of the road; a few more big trees can be glimpsed in the distance. Part of the grove was clearcut of all trees other than sequoias in the 1980s.
* Little Boulder Creek Grove (2.3 miles, 140 feet)
Another small grove in the Sequoia National Monument, Little Boulder Creek has a trail that passes about 20 sequoias in a recently clearcut area.
© 2011, 2014 David Baselt